Stress Relief: First Find the Root Cause

Is the Stress Your Feeling a Symptom of Something Else? 

What's stressing you out? You've tried stress relief techniques, but they don't work long term, otherwise you wouldn't lie awake at night. Why is your blood pressure still making your skin crawl?

Oh, my, that's one cartoonishly large pick up truck! So, what's the guy making up for?
"Dude, that's one sweet ride!"
At this instant you may be stressed because of some isolated event, such as a deadline approaching or rude driving. I'll give you an example that recently happened to me: A bald guy with a long goatee, drove a cartoonishly large pickup truck right up to my bumper. He was a fearless tailgaters. When I looked in my rear-view, I could see him gesturing and cussing. He wanted me to close the gap between myself and the car in front of me (as if that would make the otherwise bumper to bumper traffic move faster). As soon as he could, he gunned it and swerved. His truck fishtailed into the slot in front of me. His face glowed purple with rage. He was stressed out, and he wanted me to share in the experience.

I became Stressed Out, too.

Was goatee-truck-boy the cause of my stress?

It's easy to blame people for their petty actions that raise your your blood pressure. However, it's almost never the big-ass truck cutting you off on the highway, that's the real culprit.

In this stressed state, I consulted a WebMD article to find relief. It said that I should do the following things to reduce stress in fifteen minutes:
Weird man who seems to have broken into my house and started meditating on the ottoman
"a dubious meditation practice"

Breathe deeply
Be Present
Reach Out (to other people)
Tune into my body
Laugh Out loud
Crank up the tunes
Get moving (exercise)
Be grateful

I thought it a bit ambitious to sustain any one of those activities for fifteen minutes, so I opted for a glass of wine, which works just as well with a lot less effort.

To be sure, the aforementioned activities help with symptoms and are healthy alternatives to breaking stuff while screaming profanity, but they don't help with the root causes.

Attack the Root Cause of Stress

Getting back to truck driving goat-boy from earlier: he was not the root cause of my stress. He was just a symptom of a bigger problem. The ture source was the fact that I had to (1) drive on the freeway, (2) at rush hour, (3) in order to commute home from a job that I have to have in order to (4) pay the bank for the privilege of living in a house in a part of town with good schools that I could still afford. (Have you ever noticed that middle class jobs and houses are almost never near each other?)

According to Vicki Robin, in Your Money or Your Life, "Our jobs have replaced family, neighborhood, civic affairs, church and even mates as primary allegiance, or primary source of love and site of self expression." In other words, many of us surrender our identities to external pressures. We may struggle to reconcile who we are with what we do... which causes stress.

Robin talks about financial freedom. In essence, the source of stress is rooted in feeling like you have no control. You are a cog in the system at best, and a wage-slave at worst. You are a modern peasant. You're underpaid for your worth and you're one technological advance from being rendered obsolete. You owe money and you may feel that the "American Dream" has been stolen from you. Your house is full of consumer good that once gave you joy, but now remind you of all the toil and life energy it took to buy them; they collect dust and mock you, so you rent a storage unit for them, which costs even more money. You pay for cable TV to console yourself with entertainment, but the cable company sucks, the programming sucks, and it costs an absurd amount of money. How did you end up here? Half drunk on your sofa you bought on credit, watching a TV that costs more than your first car?


What am I driving at? (pun intended). The World Health Organization called stress the epidemic of the 21st century. We need to stop patching our stress with meditation and TV and booze and whatever (though let me pause to say, "Cheers to booze!"). We need to find ways to address the root causes. It isn't easy. It takes time and effort and difficult introspection into our preconceived notions and values. And for people living one missed paycheck away from the street there may not be a good solution in the near term.

For years I lived with soul crushing stress as the primary caretaker of a child with significant disabilities. Stress is real and debilitating. We shouldn't ignore it or cover it over with a yoga band-aide. For me, I had to make a decision:

book cover
1. Be a stressed-out wage slave until I die from a stress related illness
2. Do something about the root causes of the stress

I'm still a work in progress. I've cut back on hours at my day job and changed many habits that have improved my mental state.

And before my daughter passed away, I had made enormous strides in managing the uncertainties and work load of caring for a person who was completely dependent on others. If you're curious about my journey with her, you can read more about it on this blog under the headings: Life with Savannah. I've also written a memoir about my experience, which you can preview at the And Yet We Rise page of my website:

If you are looking to connect with someone who understands your journey, especially if you are odd, eccentric, shy, introverted, or misfit, visit my "Year of the Phoenix" page. It's for you. I can help.

Wishing you well on your journey...

You can also find me on:
Twitter @dsborden

#stress #stressrelief #happiness #bigasstrucksdrivenbygoatboys


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